The Bombay High Court recently came to the rescue of a senior citizen, who had dragged his employer to the court for withholding his terminal benefits of Rs 5 lakhs. The company withheld this amount towards pending dues since it by mistake hiked his salary during his service.
A Bench of Justice Manish Pitale was seized with a plea filed by Prabhakar Navghare, a resident of Chandrapur, who had joined as a lower division clerk with the Maharashtra State Power Generation Company Limited (MSPGCL).
MSPGCL had issued an office order by which it had hiked Navghare's salary and continued to pay it till 2003, when for the first time it claimed that the hike was by mistake.
Accordingly, Navghare petitioned an Industrial Court, which ruled in his favor. The same order was challenged before the high court and in 2015, the high court had ordered the firm to deduct equal amounts from Navghare's salary as it was entitled to collect Rs 5.70 lakhs from the senior citizen.
However, the firm continued to pay the hiked salaries despite an order from the high court in its favor and only in 2018, when Navghare was to retire in next 10 months, the MSPGL once again issued notice to him informing him to deduct the salaries.
The matter again came up before the high court and this time before Justice Pitale, who was hearing the MSPGL's plea challenging a new order of the Industrial Court once again restraining it from deducting any amount from Navghare's salary.
Having considered the facts of the case, Justice Pitale noted that the company wanted to make huge deductions from his salary and terminal benefits, when he was on the verge of retirement and "this amounted to unfair labour practice," the court held.
The court took into account the fact that Navghare was suffering from health ailments and his son was physically challenged, whose education would be adversely affected if the recovery was permitted and further that his wife was also suffering from various health problems.
"There is no doubt about the fact that Navghare was a class III employee and that when the orders were issued by the company for recovery of amounts, he was on the verge of retirement. The record also shows that he and his wife are suffering from health issues requiring medical expenses and further that their son is handicapped, who also needs support," Justice Pitale noted.
"Upon retirement, he would be entitled only to amounts towards gratuity, leave encashment and under other such heads and there is no pension payable to him. Therefore, he is not receiving any monthly pension after his retirement and his financial needs have to be satisfied only from the amounts received towards gratuity, leave encashment and other such benefits," the judge noted further.
The court further said that allowing the company to deduct the amounts would be "harsh."
"It would be wholly iniquitous, harsh and arbitrary to permit the company to make recovery of excess amounts from his salary, considering his financial needs upon retirement, particularly when he is to look after his handicapped son," Justice Pitale observed.
"This Court is of the opinion that if recovery is made from him, the same would be iniquitous, harsh and arbitrary to such an extent, as would far outweigh the equitable balance of the employer’s right to recover," the judge held.